Engineering and Product
Kotisi Fakalata, Senior Software Engineer Team Lead at Serato
From dreaming of becoming an astronaut to studying medicine and ultimately helping make music and DJ gear sound as good as it possibly can for some of the best artists in the world, Kotisi Fakalata, Senior Software Engineer Team Lead at Serato has had a really interesting career journey into tech.
The age old adage of 'if you find something you love doing you will never work a day in your life' could not ring more true in this instance. We caught up with Kotisi to learn more about how he ended up at Serato, what a day-in-the-life looks like from his perspective and why he loves working there.
Add to that some sage advise from his sister that can apply to anyone faced with a career decision. Thanks for sharing your story, Kotisi.
“My 5 year old thinks I just play with music and DJ gear all day”
Firstly, how would you explain to a five year old what it is you do?
My 5 year old thinks I just play with music and DJ gear all day :) I would say that I take DJ gear and make music come out of it. Without the work that we do, DJ gear wouldn’t reach its potential...
And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?
Our team receives the latest DJ equipment, and implements the software changes so that the equipment can be used to play music from your laptop. This allows a user to simply play songs in your music library, or perform more complex DJ'ing techniques like scratching and mixing.
We also implement new software features to create new software effects that DJ's can use while performing.
What are some of the common misconceptions about working in Software Engineering Team Lead Role at Serato?
Common misconceptions are:
‘We are based overseas’. Practically the whole company is here in NZ
‘Our software team is small’. Serato has a large number of software engineers and testers, comparable to other similar sized software tech companies.
“My ultimate dream would have been to be an astronaut ”
Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?
Kind of. As a kid, I loved playing around with batteries - I don't know why, but connecting tiny little lightbulbs with a wire to a battery, and seeing it light up fascinated me. And like most kids, I liked video games.
But my ultimate dream would have been to be an astronaut - something I think I would have achieved if I had set that goal earlier in life.
Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and ultimately about how you ended up working at Serato?
Coming out of high school, my passion was technology related, but Engineering wasn't really a well known career path in my family. So I went down the path of medicine at Auckland Uni. After 5 years of study, I switched to Embedded Software Engineering, and never looked back.
I graduated from Manukau Institute of Technology and worked at Fisher and Paykel Healthcare for 5 years (awesome workplace), then moved to Cubic Defence New Zealand and became a Senior Software Engineer, then a team lead, then a Software Project Manager (another awesome workplace).
I then moved to Invenco for a couple of years and worked as a Project Manager, which was great but I missed working with the team on software development. I left my job, and spent 6 months working part time from home while looking after my new-born daughter.
Then I saw that Serato was hiring Software Engineers, but it wasn't really an area of software I had much experience with. I had enough tech experience (>10 years) to bluff my way in (haha sorry Gary, our CTO) and I was really passionate about DJ'ing (I was really into DJ'ing as a teenager, before it became too expensive to buy records).
Once Serato hired me and recognised my value, I became a team lead not long after joining.
I have always felt "at home" in Serato - the best place I've worked for in my career, and the best fit for my skill set.
“When you're doing something you love, it no longer feels like work.”
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
It wasn't exactly these words, but my sister always kind of told me, if you don't like something, then don't do it. I was a bit young and immature when I was studying medicine at uni to be able to act on her advice, but at the end of the day, if you don't like your job - then don't do it, and find another one.
I know it's not that easy, but when you're doing something you love, it no longer feels like work.
What do you love about working at Serato?
Everything. The work (playing with music all day), the workplace (great environment), the people (always friendly!), the management team (they treat everyone as an equal), the respect that people show me (and I reciprocate this back).
I can give everything I have to Serato, utilise all my skills, and have fun at the same time!
Lastly, Serato continues to grow and evolve. What kind of candidates do you think Serato is looking for in terms of experience, attitude and character?
Serato is looking for passionate people that are willing to work hard and put in the effort to make the product the best in the world. Serato realises that a degree or qualification isn't the be-all / end-all - it's really the character of the person that will determine how well they will do at Serato.
Of course experience in the tech industry and the right skills for a particular role is a plus. Serato has a lot of different roles within the company, that are suitable for people of different skill sets - software programming, testing, HR, support, sales, IT, management, web design, etc etc.